FLORIDA – A young Muslim boxer was denied her right to participate in a tournament last Friday after officials allegedly told her she could not compete because of her hijab.
“All athletes should be able to compete in their sport of choice without facing roadblocks based on outmoded and discriminatory policies,” Ibrahim Hooper, National Communications Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said in a statement sent to AboutIslam.net.
“We thank Ms. Zafar’s potential opponent for her principled act of solidarity.”
Amaiya Zafar, from Oakdale, Minnesota, was reportedly barred at the last minute from a November 20 bout at the Sugar Bert Boxing National Championships in Kissimmee, Fla.
Her mother reported to CAIR that her daughter was able to register and weigh in, and was putting on her gloves just before entering the ring, when a tournament official allegedly told her she could not compete because of her hijab.
Her opponent, in an act of solidarity, shared the belt she received for the “win” due to Zafar being disqualified.
Hooper renewed CAIR’s call for the Switzerland-based International Boxing Association (AIBA) and USA Boxing to grant a religious exemption to current uniform regulations so that Zafar may wear hijab during competition.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.
Many international athletic organizations have already modified their rules and policies to account for the various religious needs of participants.
For example, over the past few years, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) and the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) have all lifted their respective bans on religious headgear, including hijabs.
Last year, CAIR welcomed a decision by USA Boxing to request a waiver to AIBA’s policy preventing Muslim women and girls from taking part in competition while wearing hijab.
To date, neither CAIR nor the teen’s family have been informed of any action being taken on that request.
In 2011, CAIR welcomed a decision by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) to modify its policy on competitor apparel to allow modest Islamic attire.
The IWF policy change came following intervention by CAIR in the case of a Muslim weightlifter in Georgia who wished to compete while covering her hair, arms and legs.